PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
The city's Real Time Crime Monitoring Center oversees a citywide crime camera network.
A time stamp appeared above each person wandering into the live feed of Jackson Square, streaming into a command center overseeing citywide crime cameras monitored in real-time.
On Rampart Street on the edge of the French Quarter, the city’s new Real Time Crime Monitoring Center hopes to centralize a “blanket” of surveillance cameras — all of them, from city-owned crime cameras and license plate readers to cameras installed by residents and bars — for round-the-clock monitoring.
On Nov. 21, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and officials announced the opening of the center, a $5 million renovation and a “major phase” of Landrieu's sweeping $40 million crime prevention package announced in January. That plan includes 40 cameras planted in crime “hotspots,” with another 250 planned by spring 2018, and 22 license plate readers, with another 80 coming online in the coming months, along with tightened security measures on Bourbon Street and around the French Quarter.
Landrieu also announced that the administration plans to work with the New Orleans City Council on legislation to get bars and alcohol permit holders to install outward-facing cameras to feed into the center. Officials first previewed plans for bar- and privately owned security cameras in January. Residents and businesses also can register cameras with the city via www.safecamenola.com
That surveillance would put nearly every bar patron into the city’s surveillance system.
“If you’re in public, you don’t have that expectation of privacy,” Landrieu said. “People should conduct themselves accordingly.”
The center will be manned largely by civilian staff with some New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) detectives but also will be accessed by "public safety partners." It uses CommandCentral Aware software that connects to a computer-aided dispatch, allowing technicians to pull up cameras in areas associated with a crime report to begin piecing together a timeline, “so we’re not just staring at cameras on a wall," explained Aaron Miller, Director of Homeland Security.
The program uses analytics to track down certain characteristics and collapses the viewing time for reviewing footage “to the time we’re looking for,” said NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison.
“The city of New Orleans is safer because of this investment,” Harrison said. “We believe going forward we’ll be one of the safest cities in America.
Miller said the city has not tapped the more than 2,000 cameras within the Project NOLA network. According to The New Orleans Advocate
, Project NOLA has not been approached by the city.